Check-in with Artblog, Roberta & Morgan talk GameStop, a new fellowship and new galleries

On this 23 minute long audio conversation, Morgan and Roberta check-in for the second time to discuss current events, Philadelphia arts & culture, and what's new at Artblog!

Roberta (left) and Morgan (right) chat on Zoom from their homes.
Roberta (left) and Morgan (right) chat on Zoom from their homes.

Morgan and Roberta record their second check-in where they talk about current events, art, Philadelphia, and what’s new at Artblog! These check-ins are not your usual Artblog Radio episodes– they are unscripted, conversational, a glimpse into what we think about and talk about on the phone while we work remotely. We talk about a whole lot of things, including GameStop, a local Francis Johnson fellowship opportunity, a benefit art auction for Disability Pride Philadelphia, and two events we are participating in on February 4th & February 9th, so check out the bottom of the post for links!

You can listen to Artblog Radio on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thank you to Kyle McKay for composing Artblog Radio’s original podcast intro and outro!


Roberta Fallon: [00:00:13] I ‘m Hi, Morgan, how are you today?


Morgan Nitz: [00:00:15] Hi Roberta! Hello, eveyone. Today, it is Friday, January 29th, and Roberta and I are doing another check-in because we got the feedback that folks kind of liked the conversational quality of the first one. And because we do this anyway, so why not record it and put it online?

Roberta Fallon: [00:00:36] I can think of reasons not to, but okay (laughs).

Morgan Nitz: [00:00:40] Yeah… Well, that’s a good point (laughs).


Roberta Fallon: [00:00:45] We’ll just talk until, you know, people cry uncle and say, okay, we’ve had enough of Morgan and Roberta and then we’ll do something else.

Morgan Nitz: [00:00:55] Yeah, definitely. You know, this is just us having a conversation, but we did have a couple of things we wanted to touch on. Because this week, I have been, you know, really enthralled by the GameStop stuff as everybody else has been, right? Like everybody on Twitter and TikTok and every social media platform I’m on (laughs).

Roberta Fallon: [00:01:16] Except me, I was not enthralled until I could not, not look at it. You know, it was so all over the front pages of everything that I was looking at that I just sort of relaxed. And I knew you were into it. And I said, Oh, (sigh) what the hell? I’m going to read something about this.


Morgan Nitz: [00:01:37] Yeah.

Roberta Fallon: [00:01:37] What do you think, Morgan?

Morgan Nitz: [00:01:39] Well, this is not something I normally would’ve gotten interested in at all.

Roberta Fallon: [00:01:43] Me neither! Me neither.

Morgan Nitz: [00:01:45] But maybe it’s the pandemic also, partially because my brother had bought a little bit of stock at $18 and ended up selling it at around $60. And since then, it’s gone up way higher than that. So he’s been just talking to me about it.
We play Fortnite now a couple of times a week.

Roberta Fallon: [00:02:05] You have to tutor me on that. I know it’s a game, right? It’s a video game.

Morgan Nitz: [00:02:11] This is another thing I never would have been interested in, but I just got really hooked by it recently. Cause I’m playing with my siblings and I like hanging out with my siblings. So while we play fortnight, we talk, we’ve been talking about this GameStop thing, and that’s how I’ve gotten to be interested.

I mean, by now everybody knows what’s been going on. I mean, we’re recording on Friday. Everybody already knows. And by the time this goes out early next week, I mean, it’s going to be old news, but I won’t bother explaining what’s happened. I would probably butcher it anyway (laughs) , but my opinion is that it’s one of those things, again… Again, and I mean, the last time we recorded a conversation, I said this about the Capitol.

I’m shocked, but I’m not surprised. I mean, when I think of like the sore state of health insurance and of education, I mean, there’s no excuse for how bad things are in those departments, but when it comes to the stock market, the fact that they’re blocking trading on these retail stocks, it’s like even more hypocritical to me.

Because at least the argument could be made with those- and of course, I disagree with this- that if you were in a better paying job that you could afford better education and then you could afford better insurance. And again, I don’t agree with those things, but when it comes to the stock market, this is supposed to be a feature of capitalism that has equal opportunity for- I mean, of course, depending on if you have money to invest- but equal opportunity for growth and loss.

You know, congruently with the, the amount of investment. And to block this thing that’s been happening… I mean, rich people have been using this tactic for so long, but to try to introduce legislation and pause trading, once people from Reddit who are more low income, people get involved, it’s just… shocking and not surprising.

Roberta Fallon: [00:03:55] No, I get it. And. For me, I needed to put the whole scenario into a sort of an analogy in order to understand it and digest it. And so what I came up with- apart from David and Goliath, which it is to a little bit, but it’s more complicated than that, but it is that…

So what I came up with was it’s like, there’s a patient in the ER, a very seriously ill patient. And there’s the head of the ER, comes in the doctor and makes a decision, looks at the chart and then walks out of the room, followed by, independently, a resident comes in. And maybe calls some of the resident friends of theirs to come in, look at what the doctor- number one doctor- has done, and they completely reverse it. They go ahead and they change everything.

And it’s almost irrelevant to the patient because it’s about the power between the boss and the others, and the others trying to get a toehold into the power structure. And so I have really mixed feelings about it and it’s wrong on so many levels. And I just would prefer it to go away, frankly, so that we could not have to talk about the stock market.

Morgan Nitz: [00:05:17] I know.

Roberta Fallon: [00:05:18] I understand the perils of the economy being at risk when there are stock fluctuations like this, and, you know, billions of dollars get sort of evaporated, zapped. I don’t know where they go, but they, they get lost and people’s pocket books get hurt. They’re going to be some of the little guys in the GameStop who lose money on this. You know, or who don’t know how to manage the money they have made and are going to get pulled in, you know, for noncompliance with some IRS regulation, they didn’t even know existed. So it’s very, very complicated. Anyway.

Morgan Nitz: [00:05:55] Oh, very, I mean, I feel for the people who are taking out credit cards and buying at $250 and could potentially lose a ton of money.
And obviously people are enjoying this because it’s sticking it to the people who have been doing this for so long. And that’s why it’s upsetting that it’s, you know, conditional. At the same time manipulation of the stock market is a problem. Anyway, I think we should uh, move on, right?

Roberta Fallon: [00:06:19] Yeah, let’s move on. We’re not economists.

Morgan Nitz: [00:06:21] Yeah, no, not at all (laughs).

Roberta Fallon: [00:06:22] We’re art wonks! So let’s talk about something else (laughs).

Morgan Nitz: [00:06:26] So! There is a great new fellowship that we just learned about from The Library Company of Philadelphia. And I mean, it looks really great. It’s- to quote them- “a newly launched Francis Johnson fellowship.” And it supports two people. I’m a creative and an academic, and they will, you know, dig through the compositions of Francis Johnson, who is one of the most popular black composers prior to the American Civil War. It’s through The Library Company, but also UPenn.

Roberta Fallon: [00:06:57] Through the music department? I mean, what sort of creative are they looking for? They looking for an art historian? A music historian? Or a trumpet player, you know? Do we know?

Morgan Nitz: [00:07:09] That’s a good question. I just read creative practitioner. So I mean, my policy is, if they’re vague, then apply. Right?

Roberta Fallon: [00:07:17] Good policy (laughs).

Morgan Nitz: [00:07:18] I mean, if you can make it work for you, then why not? I mean, Applying to everything is something I used to do more. And you do get some burnout, but at a certain level, the more applications that you’ve written, the more material you’ll have to pull from and just create something new to apply with. So it’s good practice.

Roberta Fallon: [00:07:37] I went to the library company once or twice, and one time I went to their Conservation Lab. It was fascinating. They were conserving a book, page by page I believe. I think there’s a post on Artblog about it. And, you know, they stepped me through the process of, you know, taking the paper, it was very old.

I don’t know how far their archives go back, but probably to the Revolutionary War era? If I had to guess? As so many things do in Philadelphia . So it may go back to that era. It may not. And please forgive me I can’t remember the date of the documents.

But they had to do this serious paper management of this very old paper. And so I got a very quick and dirty lesson on how they work there! And their Conservation Lab. I didn’t even know they had a Conservation Lab, but as a holder of archives of old materials, it’s good to know that they have one. A serious one.

Morgan Nitz: [00:08:39] Yeah. That’s great.

Roberta Fallon: [00:08:40] So they probably have some sheet music by this, the composer.

Morgan Nitz: [00:08:44] I would hope so. I mean, they definitely have the compositions, at least… who knows if it’s the original sheet music, or some kind of digital rendering, or what?

Roberta Fallon: [00:08:52] Yeah. Yeah. I’m happy when there are historical figures that are unknown, that are being finally given their- to use an Andy Warhol expression- 15 minutes of theme, you know ? Let’s hope it stands for a lot longer than 15 minutes. Like maybe 15 years or a hundred years, you know?

Reparations, there are so many ways to do it, but when institutions dig in and decide that they’re going to evaluate their collection in a new lens, looking at things, they haven’t really highlighted in the past and are highlighting them now that’s, that’s very much a good reparation for any organization to do.

Morgan Nitz: [00:09:37] In the interview you did with the PAFA curators? Jodi Throckmorton and Brittany Webb? They were talking about how, for their “Taking Space” exhibition they – I don’t remember the exact statistic- but a lot of the works that were shown were in their permanent collection! And that is a great way to steward this art. To show it, and to own it, and to not just have it locked up somewhere.

Roberta Fallon: [00:09:58] I agree. I agree. There should be more of that. We’re looking at you, PMA!

Morgan Nitz: [00:10:03] Right! (laughs) You went there, I love it.
Roberta Fallon: [00:10:07] Hey, why not?

Morgan Nitz: [00:10:09] Everyone knows what we’re implying (laughs).

Roberta Fallon: [00:10:11] Yes, no, no. We speak in code. Nobody knows (laughs) .

Morgan Nitz: [00:10:15] So what’s up with this “Unseen Margin: Benefit Art Auction for Disability Pride, Philadelphia?” You just told me about this.

Roberta Fallon: [00:10:22] Yeah, I did. And Chris Hammes, who also started, this year, doing the “Grand Ballroom of Doom” comics for Artblog, which we’re very proud to have and feature on a semi-weekly basis… Anyway, Chris runs pilot projects, which is an alternative gallery in North Philly. And he is organizing a fundraising auction, using art to fundraise, to fund a scholarship for a Philadelphia disabled artists.

Morgan Nitz: [00:10:55] Oh, wow. That’s great.

Roberta Fallon: [00:10:56] Yeah, it’s really great. The list of names, I was not totally familiar with many of the names of the artists who are contributing their art, although Chris has his name in there, so he is contributing his art. Which probably probably is awesome?

Morgan Nitz: [00:11:11] Oh, I love Chris’s art. And also, Cristhian Varela, who I collaborated with for my senior thesis at The Legume Room. And we were frequent collaborators at Tyler, and just friends. I’m just seeing that his name is in here. That’s great. Cris is a great artist. Great person, both Chrises!

It says bidding takes place February 1st to March 1st?

Roberta Fallon: [00:11:34] So it’s going to be open on the website. Chris has a mercantile on his website, so that’s where it would be. So all the details will be there and we can put links in the post when we publish this podcast. So that you can see where to go to get more information.

Morgan Nitz: [00:11:53] That’s awesome.

Roberta Fallon: [00:11:53] If you’re on Facebook, you can find it there.
That actually brings us to another subject I wanted to talk about because I was speaking to one of our contributors, Natalie. Sandstrom, on the phone the other day. On a completely unrelated topic. And you know how you talk, “How you doin Natalie? I haven’t seen this person for a year or more…”

Natalie works for the ICA. She is in the program area. And she, right now, told me that she’s in charge of the accessibility commission at ICA. She’s also working on a certificate in disability, ability, management at Temple University. It’s not the proper name, but that’s the gist of it. And she’s very committed to the whole accessibility issue.

So we’re going to have her on soon! We’re going to have a conversation with Natalie and she can tell us about what’s going on in Philadelphia- not only at ICA, but at Temple- and whatever else she knows about the local scene.

Morgan Nitz: [00:12:58] Oh, that’s great.

Roberta Fallon: [00:12:59] Yeah. Yeah. I think she knows a lot. And I would like to learn more.

Morgan Nitz: [00:13:04] Yeah! Yeah, that sounds great. I mean, Natalie’s involved in a lot of interesting projects, which is one of the reasons we were so grateful to have her on the Artblog team as a contributor.

Roberta Fallon: [00:13:17] Yeah. Yes. And she’s gonna do some writing for us too. She just pitched us a story idea for, I forgot what it is, but again, it’s related to accessibility in the arts, which she’s becoming an expert at.

Morgan Nitz: [00:13:30] Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m looking forward to reading it.

Roberta Fallon: [00:13:33] Yeah, me too. Me too.

Morgan Nitz: [00:13:34] What else is going on… on social media when I’m on the Artblog Instagram account , I’ve been seeing, you know, all of the “Camp Future: Digital Arts Festival” posts from The Future is Us Collective.

Roberta Fallon: [00:13:48] Tell me about that collective, because Morgan, you keep mentioning them, and I really don’t– I confess, I’m sorry– haven’t been to their website if they have one and I don’t know about them, so who founded them?

Morgan Nitz: [00:13:59] So yeah, Logan wrote about them for Artblog last year, 2020, about exactly a year ago, in February. And Logan had interviewed Laila Islam and Muhammad Gallashaw. And they are– at the time, at least and I believe still– the co-curators of the collective. And yeah, that’s when I first learned about them and the interview was great. You know, they are sort of a mix of high school and young adult artists. I’m sure some of them are college age now.

Roberta Fallon: [00:14:28] Oh, that’s so great. High school! Wonderful.

Morgan Nitz: [00:14:31] Yeah. I mean, as far as I understand, this started more of like a late-high school thing and has bridged into college with some of the members.

Roberta Fallon: [00:14:39] Do they have a gallery?

Morgan Nitz: [00:14:40] See, I don’t know exactly what their relationship is, but they have spaces that they show in. Because they’ve had multiple shows and I mean, one of them was mentioned in Logan’s piece and I mean, it just seems great. I think their aim is to kind of get away from just social media and have some face to face interaction between these young people! And just the name says a lot. “The Future is Us.” I mean, I think it’s great.

Roberta Fallon: [00:15:04] I agree. I love the name and I love that it started with high school kids. It’s right! The time is right for them to collectivize. I really applaud that, but I’m wondering what the impetus was?

Morgan Nitz: [00:15:17] I mean, as far as I understand, they were just like artists and friends in school and they were like, let’s, you know, kind of make something out of this! And they got a grant really early on from the Awesome Foundation.
This digital arts festival… just to see them organizing to this scale, they had so much programming, and the list was super long. Like a DJ set! That’s what’s happening today, the 29th to wrap up the festival.

Roberta Fallon: [00:15:41] Very much good news that they’re around. I look forward to seeing them and meeting them in the future.

There’ve been a couple of little collective art things that have opened up, and people opening up galleries in their own home. I mean, this is a time when you would least expect that! Because artists are hit hard with, you know, being laid off; artists are a lot of gig workers, and so they might’ve lost some money in their employment. And yet not all artists are that way. And we have Terry Saulin opening up “No. 5 Butchie Alley!” Turned her garage behind her house into a gallery, a beautiful looking space, you know, right now it just opened. And that’s very exciting.

I know there’s a place called “Peep” up in the– I believe it’s the Viking Mill Building?– I may have that detail wrong, but again, it’s a very tiny little gallery space that they opened up in this larger building and they want to show art! And they’d been open during COVID.

Morgan Nitz: [00:16:48] That’s great.

Roberta Fallon: [00:16:49] It is great. And I’m sure there are more and I applaud them and I hope. At some point it’ll be safe enough for all of us to go out and take a look at what they’re doing in the real world.

Morgan Nitz: [00:17:00] Yeah, no, absolutely. I look forward to that. I don’t even know- what are you going to do first? When it’s officially safe? We’ve reached herd immunity through vaccination.

Roberta Fallon: [00:17:10] Oh, you mean five years from now? I don’t know…

Morgan Nitz: [00:17:14] I know I’m not holding my breath. You know, I can’t have any hope for any certain timeline because I expect that…. I mean, it’s a new frontier, I expect there’ll be some sort of setback, so I, I’m not holding my breath for the end of summer like they’re projecting.

Roberta Fallon: [00:17:26] Yeah, no, all these new variants and then the vaccines are ineffective against them? I’m not holding my breath either. Although I want the vaccine, as soon as I can get it. Which is not going to be anytime soon, but I’m waiting. I’m here. Everybody! I’m waiting…

What would be the first thing I would do? I would like to go into people’s studios. I’d like to have studio visits, you know, I’m all about gallery visits… and I like museums too. But I really, my happy place is to talk with an artist in their workspace. And just get messy with them about why are they, why are they doing what they’re doing? And what are they doing? And all that kind of stuff. It makes me happy! I like talking about art on that granular level.

Morgan Nitz: [00:18:16] Yeah, no, absolutely. I wish that I could say that the very first thing I would do is art-related… I’ll confess..It’s not, but I’ll give a follow-up that is art related. A couple actually, cause they all just came to me.

Well, the first thing I would do truthfully, is I want to go get a dozen oysters in a beer. That’s what I want.

Roberta Fallon: [00:18:38] That’s a great want (laughs).

Morgan Nitz: [00:18:41] That’s what I want. And then art related, which would come soon after .. I would love to meet with my critique group that was meeting for a while before the pandemic. And as often as I tell myself “It has to be started back up, I should send out an email…” it’s just not the same.

And it’s been okay to have this space from that sort of thinking, but I would love to do that. Also similarly, and if any of you listened to this, I’m so sorry.. I used to meet with a group of poets. We would meet every once in a while to critique each other’s work, and they have still been meeting over zoom. And I’ve totally just goes to the chat because again, my mental space just isn’t there.

So, if any of you hear this, I’m sorry, but I would love to meet with you when it’s safe, in-person!

Roberta Fallon: [00:19:29] Ghosting the poets! That sounds like a movie or, you know, a theater piece. Doesn’t it?

Morgan Nitz: [00:19:35] Uh, It’s the uh, title for my um, upcoming memoir.

Roberta Fallon: [00:19:42] Hilarious. That’s great (laughs) .

Oh, well let me just step back a moment. I didn’t realize you were asking about what I would do regardless of whether it was art related or not. So I want to see my family and give them all big hugs. I miss them so much. I know you do too. Everybody does. It’s human to miss people. We all miss people. I guess that’s my need to go into a studio for the art part of it, because I am a people person.

I love talking to artists. They are people.

Morgan Nitz: [00:20:15] Absolutely. Yeah, definitely would love… I think, you know, something my family really likes to do– that we didn’t get to do a ton of times when I was younger, just with life, but we had made a priority, like more of a regular priority in recent years– was to go to Maine together to climb some mountains! And my mom kicks my butt. She’s the fastest walker. And she’s just like, “I want to do three mountains a day.” That’s her mentality. And sometimes I have to take a break, but I would love to see my family in Maine. Where, I could get oysters and have beer!

Roberta Fallon: [00:20:51] That sounds perfect. I can envision it (laughs).

Morgan Nitz: [00:20:54] I think our time’s about up, but let’s talk about two things that we have going on!

First, is that on February 4th, Roberta and I will be at “Virtual First Thursday” at Venture Cafe, 6:30 to 8:00 PM. And it’s on a platform called Remo, which is kind of funny. They’ve got these little tables, it’s like a blueprint and you can like click on the tables. And I think there’s five slots per organization.

So we’ll be having these sort of intimate talks with whatever three, one to three people choose to stop by. And we’re calling this “Office Hours,” we just want to have a talk with you about the future of Artblog!

Roberta Fallon: [00:21:30] Help us out! Tell us what you want. How can we be useful?

Morgan Nitz: [00:21:34] Yeah. And I, I mean, if you have any questions for us, you’ve been wanting to ask, or you don’t… if this is the first podcast you’ve ever listened to from Artblog Radio, and you want to learn more. Come by. Yeah.

And finally, you know, just a few days after that, February 9th, 2:00 to 2:30 PM– although the event happens on February 9th and 10th– it’s a Digital Rally for Philly Arts, it’s been put on by an amazing group of arts and culture leaders in Philadelphia. And we’re going to be advocating for arts funding and the new city budget, which is up for approval from the Mayor this January.

And so there’s going to be a whole cast of local artists and activists, you know, doing readings, like Artblog contributor Kem will be doing. Kem will be reading his essay “Re-imagine our schools as a school-to-museum pipeline for Black students.” It’s a great essay. And he’ll be reading that on behalf of Artblog, but there’ll be other performances and discussions and just art making things happening. So we’d love to see you there.

Roberta Fallon: [00:22:35] Definitely, definitely. So things are chugging along at Artblog, and I’m happy that they are. And Morgan, it’s great to see you, always, on Zoom. And I look forward to seeing you. That’s what we both should have said, that we are looking forward to see each other in the real world at some point in the future!

Morgan Nitz: [00:22:56] Yess! Artblog pizza partyyyy!

Roberta Fallon: [00:22:59] Yeah. For everybody. Yes. Pizza for the world in Philly.

Morgan Nitz: [00:23:05] This has been lovely!

Roberta Fallon: [00:23:06] We’ll see you next time, Morgan.

Morgan Nitz: [00:23:08] Yeah, have a nice week! Thanks for listening.

Roberta Fallon: [00:23:35] Bye.


Francis Johnson Fellowship: Application information

Roberta’s Library Company post on the Conservation Lab: Scanning history – a visit to the conservation lab at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Unseen Margin, a benefit art auction for Disability Pride Philadelphia: Auction site; Facebook

Logan Cryer’s The Future is Us post: The future looks bright for burgeoning Philly youth art collective

Virtual First Thursday, Venture Cafe: Thursday, February 4, 6:30-8 PM

Digital Rally for Philly Arts: February 9, 2:00-2:30 PM